Dave Lister

Dave Lister

Infobox character
name = David Lister
colour =

caption = "The man with the galaxy-sized jockstrap"
first = The End
last = Only the Good...
nickname = Listy, Davey-boy, Dave, Dave "Cinzano Bianco" Lister, Skipper
alias =
species = Human
gender = Male
age = 3,000,235 (As of "Only the Good...", 3,000,200 years spent in stasis and suspended animation)
born = birth date|2155|10|14
death =
occupation = Technician, Third Class
family = Adopted By The Willmot Family, Grandma Lister
spouse =
children = Jim Lister and Bexley Lister (in alternate realities), himelf
relatives = Father: himself, Mother: Kristine Kochanski, Children: Jim and Bexley Lister and himself
episode =
portrayer = Craig Charles
creator = Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

David "Dave" Lister (commonly referred to simply as Lister) is a fictional character from the British science fiction situation comedy "Red Dwarf", portrayed by Craig Charles. (In the never-aired pilot for the American version of the show, Lister was played by Craig Bierko.)

Lister is recognisable for his self-made leather jacket and hat, his boiler suits and his lengthy dreadlocks that he grows only from the back of his head (which could possibly be considered a dreadlocked mullet).

Early life

An orphan, he was discovered as an infant on November 26, 2155, under a pool table in a Liverpool pub (the Aigburth Arms), nestled in a cardboard box with the mysterious word "ouroboros" scribbled on the side. He was roughly six weeks old at the time, and his real parents were never located. Lister celebrates his birthday on 14 October 2155, but because of the confusion Lister celebrates his birthday "most of the time".

He was adopted by the Willmot family, but his adoptive father died when he was six. His adoptive mother apparently followed soon after, and he was raised by his "gran", presumably the mother of one of his adoptive parents. His gran's surname was Lister, from whom Dave gained his own surname. She was a tough, pipe-smoking woman, who headbutted the headmaster of Lister's school when Lister came bottom in French and whose cooking led to his being nicknamed "Fat Boy" until he was thirteen. He decided to lose weight after he was shocked to find that the coroner had to go back for more chalk for his grandmother when she died as a result of a traffic accident. Lister lost his virginity at the age of twelve in one of the bunkers on the ninth hole of Bootle Municipal golf course.

Lister suffers from claustrophobia, which stems from an incident when a vengeful husband caught him making love to his wife, in the supermarket where he was employed. The man kidnapped the naked Lister, locked him in a box and threatened to throw him into a canal. Lister begged for mercy and was finally released onto the stage of a local theatre in the nude, in the middle of the Bootle Amateur Players' production of "The Importance of Being Earnest".

When he was 17, he formed a band called Smeg and the Heads. Seemingly their only song was called "Om". The young Lister had the tendency of calling everything "crypto-fascist" if he disliked it, or "shady" if he approved. Lister was accepted at art college, but dropped out on his first day when he learned his schedule would include lectures "first thing in the afternoon". Lister memorably went out with a girl named Lise Yates, but the relationship ended because he did not want a commitment, a fact that Lister has since secretly regretted.

Within the continuity of the books by Grant Naylor, Lister went on a drunken Monopoly board pub crawl with his friends to celebrate his 23rd birthday, where he got very, very drunk — when he awoke, he was on Mimas, one of Saturn's moons, wearing a lady's pink crimplene hat and a pair of yellow fishing waders, with no money and a passport in the name of "Emily Berkenstein", and a worrying rash. Lister, determined to make enough money to get back home, spent six months stealing "hoppers" (the equivalent of taxis on Mimas) and collecting the fares, but he loses all his money several times from blowing it all on alcohol (with the belief that he will awaken back in London the day after his birthday if he gets drunk enough) and on one occasion being mugged by a drug addict hooked on the drug "Bliss". Penniless, and tired of living inside a luggage locker, Lister signs up for a job on the mining ship "Red Dwarf", which unknown to him was due to make a four-and-a-half-year mining run to Triton before heading back to Earth. He barely qualifies for a place on the ship, having only one GCSE — in Technical Drawing, which he failed.


Lister is very lazy, and more importantly, unmotivated. His best shirt is the one with "only" two curry stains on the front, and prior to going into stasis he saved money by never buying soap, deodorant or socks. He enjoys "bumming around", drinking large amounts of lager, and eating Indian food. Lister has dreadlocks on the back of his head, which he seems to have for most of his life (in "Future Echoes", Lister meets himself at age 171, and his dreadlocks are the length of his body). Lister's religious beliefs are unclear. He is referred to as being "the ultimate atheist" in the episode "Back To Reality", although this may refer more to his lifestyle than his metaphysical beliefs; but in the episode "The Last Day" Kryten suggests he might be a pantheist, believing God to be in all things; when pressed on his belief of "Silicon Heaven", he replies "Yeah, but I just don't think it applies to kitchen utensils. I'm not a "frying pan"theist". He prides himself on being a good man possessing moral courage, something used against him by a 'despair squid' in "Back to Reality"; when hallucinating under the influence of the squid's ink, he was driven to suicidal despair by his belief that, in the alternate world in which he found himself, he was a genocidal minister of a totalitarian state responsible for the mass murder of countless innocents. When confronted with an evil version of himself on a warped, twisted copy of Red Dwarf, Lister says of his evil counterpart, "But he kills; I'm not capable of that." When the crew met Ace Rimmer, a 'perfect' alternate version of the regular Arnold Rimmer, Lister learns that his counterpart from Ace's universe is a successful engineer married to Kristine Kochanski and father to two sons named Jim and Bexley. Unlike Rimmer, who was insanely jealous of Ace, Lister accepted his double's prosperity, saying that he was happy to know there was a Lister who lived an ideal life.

Lister is warm-hearted and occasionally very introspective, and according to Rimmer, extremely optimistic and naive. In many ways, he is the complete opposite of Rimmer, and the two are constantly at odds with each other. It is presumably this reason that Holly picked Rimmer to come back as a hologram in order to keep Lister sane. Rimmer is constantly pointing out Lister's stupidity (a somewhat hypocritical analysis), but actually Lister is quite bright — if indisposed to use his intelligence to any great degree. He is capable of piloting a spaceship very well, of operating "Red Dwarf", and has a knack for mechanical repairs, particularly amateur cybernetics. He is literate, despite Rimmer's claims to the contrary, but he is not a regular reader, except for comic books. He understands the international language Esperanto (or at least he can understand it better than Rimmer, who despite his best efforts is extremely poor at it). In the novel Last Human, it is suggested that Lister often consults Kryten, already knowing the information he is seeking, but lacking the confidence in his own intelligence to voice it as an opinion. He considers himself good at pool, saying that he was nicknamed "Dave Cinzano Bianco Lister" because once he was on a table you couldn't get rid of him.

Dave Lister is also an avid junk collector who has purchased (among other things) a talking toilet, a talking toaster with artificial intelligence, and two robot goldfish, which he named Lennon and McCartney (the latter of which swims backwards and is prone to breaking down).


Lister enjoys many different sorts of entertainment and recreation.

  • Fishing - Lister mentions how he used to go down to the canal to go "condom fishing" before joining Red Dwarf, and secretly plans to go fishing with Kryten and The Cat (and Holly) behind Rimmer's back ("Dimension Jump"). In "Timeslides", The Cat also offers playing Junior Angler with Lister.
  • Television - Lister and Cat have indepth discussions about The Flintstones (debating if Wilma is sexier than Betty) as well as "Tales of The River Bank: The Next Generation" ("Camille").
  • Films - Lister enjoys watching films from classics like Citizen Kane and Casablanca (the remake with Mary Binglebat and Peter Beardsly), to films like "Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens" and the Killer Bikini Vampire Girls films. Lister also likes soppy romance films (see "Confidence And Paranoia" and "Holoship").
  • Games - To pass time onboard Red Dwarf, Lister has created many different games including "Match the Bodypart to the Crewmember" and "Armpit Name That Tune" ("Blue"). Kochanski even suggests that Lister's favourite games include "Name That Smell" and "How Many Marbles Can You Fit Up Your Nostril" ("Beyond A Joke").
  • Virtual/Artificial Reality - Lister enjoys using the virtual reality suite onboard Starbug playing such games as Wimbledon and Gumshoe ("Gunmen Of The Apocalypse"). Rimmer claims that Lister uses the AR machine to have sex - a claim supported in "Stoke Me a Clipper". Years before, Lister considered the total immersion video game "Better Than Life" to be rarer than "Brooke Shield's buttocks" ("Better Than Life"). Although Lister agreed with Kochanski to partake in Jane Austen World, Lister found the experience boring ("Beyond A Joke").
  • Playing his guitar


    Lister believes himself to be an excellent guitarist, although his belief is misplaced. In the episode "Psirens", his companions are able to distinguish a psiren disguised as Lister from the real Lister because the psiren plays guitar like "the ghost of Hendrix" — as Lister believes himself to play. Lister eventually acknowledges his inability to play the guitar to at least some degree; in "Nanarchy" he comments, after playing his guitar with assistance from Kryten due to the loss of an arm, "at least now I'm only half crap."

    In series 1, Lister's guitar is firstly an Ovation acoustic and silver in colour. Then in series 3, episode 2 ("Marooned"), the crew forced to evacuate (Lister and Rimmer in one space craft, Kryten and Cat aboard the other) and Rimmer and Lister's craft crash lands on an ice planet, leaving them with no heat and hardly any food. Rimmer gladly suggests to burn Lister's guitar for heat in order to save his own possessions getting burnt. (His guitar in this scene is now black and an electric guitar - according to Lister it is a "genuine Les Paul copy".) In series 6 episode 4 "", the ship, badly battered and close to blowing up, flies into the GELF zone of space, which is inhabited by huge, ugly creatures that are in a tribe (which later Kryten points out to be the "Kinitowowi" tribe) and crash lands in a river on the GELF planet, extinguishing the fires on board. Before setting foot on the planet, the crew sort out all their possessions, presumably for trading with the GELFs. On collecting their possessions, Kryten says "at least Mr. Lister's guitar survived intact", whereupon the Cat takes the guitar from Kryten, smashes it, and hands the remains back to Kryten who states "not even Mr. Lister's guitar survived intact". (Later, in series 7, Lister's guitar re-appears all working and fixed, possibly rebuilt by the nanites.)

    In series 8, when Rimmer reads a letter sent to Lister by his friend Petersen stating that he found Lister's guitar in Starbug's wreckage (caused by Starbug crashing on entering "Red Dwarf"). After Lister receives his guitar from one of the prison guards, he then notices that all his strings have been removed. Rimmer is obviously happy about this and states that he feels "luckier than a man who has jumped out of a plane with no parachute and lands in the hot tub in the "Playboy" mansion". The reason as to why Lister's strings had been removed was apparently because of prison regulations "you're not allowed anything you can hang yourself with", Lister then states "I wouldn't want to hang myself if I had my strings", then Rimmer finally states "I think they were thinking of me". Following a successful appeal, Lister finally was returned his guitar strings (NOT released along with Kochanski, Kryten, Rimmer and Cat, as Rimmer originally thought).


    Lister has a strong appetite for Indian food, especially curries and vindaloo. Rimmer describes him as sweating madras sauce and having lost all but two functional taste buds after eating nothing but curries. In "Tikka to Ride", the whole of the Indian food supply is apparently destroyed (although a deleted scene suggests otherwise) and Lister is sent into a state of despondency which would be more appropriate if a close friend or family member had died. Upon recovering a Time Drive, he attempts an elaborate scheme to travel back in time and replenish the crew's supply of Indian foodstuffs with typically disastrous results, but in the end doesn't forget what he came for. He has been attacked by his food twice: once by a kebab (that was actually a polymorph) and then again by a mutton vindaloo transformed into a psychopathic humanoid monstrosity (the Mutton Vindaloo Beast — half man and half hot Indian curry) by Holly's fiddling with a DNA Modifier.

    While trapped on an ice planet, and given a choice of either dog food or Pot Noodle, he exclaimed "Well it's pretty obvious what will get eaten last...I can't stand Pot Noodles." Lister's hatred for Pot Noodles is shown repeatedly through the novels and series, including one event when- due to their being trapped on an alternate Red Dwarf where everything was heavenly and good- he determines that the ultimate confirmation of excellence is that the food dispensers on the vessel are able to create a Pot Noodle that is actually edible.

    "Red Dwarf"

    As a third technician, Lister was the lowest ranking crewman on "Red Dwarf", a ship with a crew of 169 ref|crewcount, and spent his time performing tasks too menial for the skutters, under the hated supervision of Arnold Rimmer, or getting drunk with his friends Olaf Petersen, Selby and Chen. Lister was imprisoned in a stasis booth because he smuggled a cat (which he named Frankenstein) aboard the ship. In the book, he deliberately let the cat be discovered so that he would be placed in stasis, thus getting back to Earth in (subjectively) zero time.

    While Lister was in stasis, a release of lethal radiation occurred onboard as a result of a repaired carried out by Rimmer in his usual incompetent manner, killing the entire crew. Holly, the ship's computer, kept Lister in stasis for three million years until the radiation levels decreased.

    Lister was left as the last human being in the universe, accompanied on "Red Dwarf" by a hologram simulation of Rimmer and a humanoid creature that evolved from his cat — Lister is actually believed to be the god of this race of cat-people, who know him as "Cloister the Stupid". Lister has played pool with planets, been attacked by a killer kebab, and defeated cybernetic war-machines time and time again. However, nothing has surprised Lister more than eating an edible Pot Noodle.

    After a sexual liaison with his female alter-ego from a female-oriented alternate universe, Lister, via caesarean section, gave birth to twin sons named Jim and Bexley, named after the Zero-G football player, Jim-Bexley Speed. Due to them being born in a different reality to their conception, both of them grew to be eighteen years old within three days, so to make sure they did not die within a fortnight, Lister sent them back to their mother's dimension.

    Lister has a tattoo on his right buttock, dedicated to the love of his life: it is a heart with an arrow through it and underneath it has in dripping curry sauce, "I love Vindaloo". It was obtained while on planet leave on Ganymede with Petersen, who spiked his cocktail with four-star petrol. When he woke up the next day he had enrolled as a novice monk in a Ganymedian monastery. Although this is not canon it is mentioned in the deleted scenes on the "Red Dwarf" Season VI DVD.

    Lister is dedicated to resurrecting and winning over the one true love of his three-million year life: Kristine Kochanski, the long dead navigation officer of "Red Dwarf". It is his ambition to marry Kristine Kochanski and start a frugal life at a farm on the Earth islands of Fiji. When Lister meets an alternate universe incarnation of Kochanski, he is given the chance to create an in-vitro child. When the child is born, he takes it back in time and space to the pool table when he was first discovered. This means that Lister is essentially his own father, and his girlfriend is his mother. Presumably he is also the father of the various alternate universes Lister has seen (as most of them would not have had this opportunity), lending some credence to his claim to be "the definitive version".

    Lister is mentioned to be in his mid-twenties in the original series. In the eighth series, it is stated that five years have passed by in the show, meaning that Lister is physically around thirty by that point. Chronologically, Lister is well over three million years old, and a few centuries on top of this, due to the amount of time he has spent in stasis. In the first episode of Series V, his physical age is given as 47 (intended as an insult by Enlightenment Holoship crewman Binks.)ref|age


    The last time Lister is seen on screen is in the last episode of the eighth series, "Only the Good...", in which he escapes a rapidly disintegrating "Red Dwarf" by crossing over into a mirror universe along with Kristine Kochanski, Cat and Kryten. It is unknown what happens to Lister after this as the cliffhanger was never resolved.

    However, throughout the previous series at least several glimpses of Lister's future have been seen:

    * In the episode "Future Echoes" in the first series of the show, a vision of Lister is seen with him as a very old man of 171 years old with a mechanical prosthetic hand. This future version of Lister still has his trademark dreadlocks, although they are over two metres long and almost white with age.
    * In the episode "Cassandra" in the eighth series of the show, the Dwarfers make contact with a prophetic and clairvoyant computer that has the ability to predict the future without a margin of error. Lister is told by Cassandra that he will live to 181 years old and will die whilst trying to take a bra off with his teeth. We can assume this prophecy is correct, since dozens of other prophecies made by Cassandra during the episode were correct. This future version of Lister may also be the same as the one seen in "Future Echoes".
    * One vision of a potential future for Lister was seen in the episode "Stasis Leak", in which he finds a photograph of himself marrying his old flame Kristine Kochanski. He travels back in time, to The Ganymede Holiday Inn where he finds himself (from five years into his own future) on honeymoon with Kristine Kochanski. This however has not occurred in the show, despite there having been around five years passing in the show. This future is now obviously impossible to come about as Dave Lister is accompanied by a "soft-light" Rimmer, and the hologrammatic Rimmer has left to be replaced by a living clone. However, it is theoretically possible that this event happened early in the 200 years between Series V and VI, and was never referred to again; also, since Lister refers to himself "turning 28" at the start of Series VII (his age was given as twenty five at the start of the series), there is also a slight possibility that this potential future simply hasn't occurred yet. Another idea is that these events happened to the "future" versions of the crew from "Out of Time" (it could also be suggested that the radiation leak was Lister's "accident")
    * In "Timeslides", Lister changed the past yet again. In this new version of his future he ended up as a billionaire who died at age ninety-eight, when he lost control of the plane he was flying as he made love to his fourteenth wife. However, this alternate timeline was reverted by Arnold Rimmer, interfering in an attempt to make himself a billionaire in Lister's place (Rimmer's efforts were futile and resulted in neither character ending up a billionaire but making things right again). Rimmer's interference did lead him somehow to become living, briefly, again.
    * In the sixth series episode "Out of Time", Lister is seen to have ended up as a brain in a jar (to which his trademark dreadlocks were attached) after some horrific unmentioned accident that was yet to occur. This outcome was presumably undone when the present Rimmer destroyed their timedrive, disallowing the path the future crew had taken up to that point.
    * In the book "Better Than Life", which explores different adventures than the TV series, Lister eventually discovers Earth, but finds that it is ruled by eight-foot-long cockroaches. He becomes their king and plans to rebuild the planet. The others find him thirty-six years later (after believing Lister was missing for a fortnight due to a time dilation). Later, after Lister dies of a heart attack in a confrontation with a polymorph, his body is taken to the alternative universe where time runs backwards (possibly the dimension in the first episode of Series III, "Backwards") and is told that he will be rescued in thirty-six years time. Two accounts of what followed (again, inconsistent with each other) are "Backwards" and "Last Human". The latter also features yet another alternate Lister, this one adopted by a disturbed upper-middle class couple, rather than "our" Lister's adopted parents, and suffering extreme sociopathy as a result. The former tells how he unspent eight years in prison for murder and had a relationship with Kochanski, but backwards.

    Discovery of Lister's Parents

    It is revealed in the episode "Ouroboros" that Lister and his ex-girlfriend, Kristine Kochanski, are in fact his parents and that he is his own son and father. After meeting the Kristine from the alternate universe, she asked him for a donation of sperm (because the hologram of her Lister cannot father children) so that she could have children. While loading supplies from the alternates ship, Lister sees the word "ouroboros" on one of the crates and then discovers that the eventual child of him and Kristine is himself, that he takes himself back in time and leaves himself to be found by his foster parents.The episode ends with Lister appearing in a bar carrying his 6-month-old self in a box labeled "ouroboros", to which Lister, and the two who discovered him, mistook as "Our Rob or Ross". He explains to his baby self (and also assuring himself in a way) that he was never abandoned, but his life is an ever going cycle to keep the human race from going extinct.

    A scene was scripted for "Timeslides" but never filmed in which Lister meets his real father through the photograph time-travel (obviously, this was before the Lister-is-his-own-father idea was thought of). Lister's father appears to be a small-time crook who is in trouble with several different shady characters - according to him, Lister's mother worked at Tesco's and Lister was illegitimate. This scene was restored as a "script extract" on the DVD release "Red Dwarf: The Bodysnatcher Collection".


    # This number has changed between series. In the first series, it was mostly given as 169, although it was 129 in one episode. In Series IV, Episode 3, Rimmer is accused of 1,167 counts of manslaughter, due to his own guilt over the accident that killed the crew of "Red Dwarf". This would make the crew count 1,169 (as Lister is the only survivor and Rimmer cannot be charged with his own murder). The novelisation "Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" states that the crew number 11,169.
    #In series V, Holoship, his physical age is stated as 47 "after" his chronological age, which is stated as mid-twenties. This is meant to be a joke about Lister's poor physical health. It has not been stated as fact.
    # In the first Red Dwarf book Lister played a bass guitar. With only 2 strings, both of them G.
    # Lister also admits his lack of skills playing the guitar to some extent much earlier than "Nanarchy". In the series 3 episode "Marooned" Lister says "I know I'm not exactly a whizz at it" when pleading with Rimmer to be allowed to play one last song on his guitar before it has to be burnt and again in Series VI, after emerging from deep sleep with amnesia and realising what his life is like from the same perspective as the other characters before regaining his memories and reverting to his usual self.

    External links

    * [http://www.sadgeezer.com/html/modules.php?op=modload&name=Reviews&file=index&req=showcontent&id=341 Dave Lister biography]
    * [http://www.reddwarf.co.uk/deck05/down_time/listing_lister.html Dave Lister Biography at Red Dwarf.co.uk]

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